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mightstand, not of works, but him that calleth; it was said unto her, (unto Rebecca,) “The elder shall serve the younger;” that our predestination to life no way depends on the fore-knowledge of God. But who infers this, dear sir? For if fore-knowledge signifies approbation, as it does in several parts of scripture, then we confess that predestination and election do depend on God's fore-knowledge. But if by God's fore-knowledge you understand God's fore-seeing some good works done by his creature, as the foundation or reason of choosing them, and therefore electing them ; then we say that, in this sense, predestination does not any way depend on God's fore-knowledge. But I referred you, at the beginning of this letter, to Dr. Edward's Veritas Redur, which I recommended to you in a late letter, with Elisha Cole on God's sovereignty. Be pleased to read those; and also the excellent sermons of Mr. Cooper, of Boston, in New England, which I also sent you, and I doubt not but you will see all your objections answered. Though I would observe, that af. ter all our reading on both sides the question, we shall never in this life be able to search out God's decrees to perfection. No ; we must humbly adore what we cannot comprehend; and, with the great apostle, at the end of our inquires, cry out, Oh! the depth, &c. Or with our Lord, when he was admiring God's sovereignty, “Even so Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.” However, it may not be amiss to take notice, that if those texts, “God willeth that none should perish—I have no pleasure in him that dieth,” and such like, be taken in their strictest sense, then no one will be damned. But here is the distinction: God taketh no pleasure in the death of sinners, so as to delight simply in their death; but he delights to magnify his justice, by inflicting the punishment which their iniquities have deserved; as a righteous judge, who takes no pleasure in condemning a criminal, may yet justly command him to be executed, that law and justice may be satisfied, even though it be in his power to procure him a reprieve. I would hint farther, that you unjustly charge the doctrine of reprobation with blasphemy; whereas the doctrine of universal redemption, as you set it forth, is really the highest reproach upon the dignity of the Son of God, and the merit of his blood. Consider, therefore, whether it be not blasphemy rather, to say, as you do, (page 20) “Christ not only died for those that are saved, but also for those that perish.” The text you have misapplied to gloss over this, see explained by Ridgely, Edwards, Henry; and I purposely omit answering your texts myself, that you may be brought to read such treatises, which, under God, would show you your error. You cannot make good this assertion, “That Christ died for them that perish,” without holding, (as Peter Boehler, one of the Moravian brethren, in order to make out universal redemption, lately frankly confessed in a letter,) “That all the damned souls would hereafter be brought out of hell.” I cannot think Mr. Wesley is thus minded. And yet, without this can be proved, universal redemption, taken in a literal sense, falls entirely to the ground. For how can all be universally redeemed, if all are not finally saved 7 Dear sir, for Jesus Christ's sake, consider how you dishonor God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend, not on God's free grace, but on man's free will. And it is more than probable, Jesus Christ would not have had the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of his death in the eternal salvation of one soul. Our preaching would then be vain, and all invitations for people to believe in him, would also be in vain. But blessed be God, our Lord knew for whom he died. There was an eternal compact between the Father and Son. A certain number was then given him, as the purchase and reward of his obedience and death. For these he prayed, (John xvii.) and not for the world. For these and these only, he is now interceding, and with their salvation he will be fully satisfied. I purposely omit making any further particular remarks on the several last pages of your sermon. Indeed, had not your name, dear sir, been prefixed to the sermon, I could not have been so uncharitable as to think you were the author of such sophistry. You beg the question, in saying that God has declared, (notwithstanding you own, I suppose, some will be damned,) that he would save all, i. e. every individual person. You take it for granted (for solid proof you have none) that God is unjust, # he passes by any ; and then you exclaim against the horrible decree. And yet, as I before hinted, in holding the doctrine of original sin, you profess to believe that he might justly have passed by all. Dear, dear sir! O be not offended ! For Christ's sake, be not rash! Give yourself to reading. Study the covenant of grace. Down with your carnal reasoning. Be a little child. And then, instead of pawning your salvation, as you have done in a late hymn book, if the doctrine of universal redemption be not true; instead of talking of sinless perfection, as you have done in the preface to hion book, and making man's salvation depend on his own free will, as you have in this sermon; you will compose a hymn in praise of sovereign, distinguishing love. You will caution believers against striving to work a perfection out of their own hearts; and print another
sermon the reverse of this, and entitle it, Free grace indeed. Free, because not free to all; but free, because God may withhold or give it to whom and when he pleases. Till you do this, I must doubt whether or not you know yourself. In the mean while, I cannot but blame you for censuring the clergy of our church for not keeping to their Articles, when you yourself, by your principles, positively deny the 9th, 10th, and 17th. Dear sir, these things ought not so to be. God knows my heart, as I told you before, so I declare again, nothing but a single regard to the honor of Christ has forced this letter from me. I love and honor you for his sake; and, when I come to judgment, will thank you, before men and angels, for what you have, under God, done for my soul. There, I am persuaded, I shall see dear Mr. Wesley, convinced of election and everlasting love. And it often fills me with pleasure, to think how I shall behold you casting your crown down at the feet of the Lamb; and, as it were, filled with a holy blushing for opposing the Divine Sovereignty in the manner you have done. But I hope the Lord will show you this before you go hence. O how do I long for that day ! If the Lord should be pleased to make use of this letter for that purpose, it would abundantly rejoice the heart of dear and honored sir, Your affectionate, though unworthy, Brother and servant in Christ, GEORGE WHITEFIELD.
INTO THE FIRST AND CHIEF REASON WHY THE GENERALITY OF CHRISTIANS FALL SO FAR SHORT OF THE HOLINESS AND DEVOTiON OF CHRISTIANITY.
[Extracted from Mr. Whitefield's Tracts.]
SINCE christian devotion is nothing less than a life wholly devoted to God, and persons who are free from the necessities of labor and employments are to consider themselves as devoted to God in a higher degree, it may now reasonably be inquired how it comes to pass that the lives even of the moral and better sort of people are in general so directly contrary to the principles of christianity. I answer, because the generality of those who call themselves christians are destitute of a true, living
faith in Jesus Christ; for want of which they never effectually intended to please God in all the actions of life, as the happiest and best thing in the world. To be partaker of such a faith is every where represented in scripture as a fundamental and necessary part of true piety. For without a living faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, , our persons cannot be justified, and consequently none of our performances acceptable in the sight of God. It is this faith that enables us to overcome the world, and to devote ourselves, without reserve, to promote the glory of Him who has loved and given himself for us. And therefore it is purely for want of such a faith, that you see such a mixture of sin and folly even in the lives of the better sort of people. It is for want of this faith, that you see clergymen given to pride, and covetousness, and worldly enjoyments. It is for want of such a faith, that you see women, who profess devotion, yet living in all the folly and vanity of dress, wasting their time in idleness and pleasures, and in all such instances of state and equipage as their estate will reach. Let but a woman feel her heart full of this faith, and she will no more desire to shine at balls and assemblies, or to make a figure among those that are most finely dressed, than she will desire to dance upon a rope to please spectators; for she will then know that the one is as far from the true nature, wisdom and excellency of the christian spirit, as is the other. Let a clergyman be but thus pious, and he will converse as if he had been brought up by an apostle; he will no more think and talk of noble preferment, than of noble eating, or a glorious chariot. He will no more complain of the frowns of the world, or a small cure, or the want of a patron, than he will complain of the want of a laced coat, or of a running horse. Let him but have such a faith in and love for God as will constrain him to make it his business to study to please God in all his actions, as the happiest and best thing in the world, and then he will know that there is nothing noble in clergymen, but burning zeal for the salvation of oi, nor any thing poor in his profession, but idleness and a worldly spirit. Further: Let a tradesman but have such a faith, and it will make him a saint in his shop; his every day business will be a course of wise and reasonable actions, made holy to God by flowing from faith, proceeding from love, and by being done in obedience to his will and pleasure. He will therefore not chiefly consider what arts, or methods, or application, will soonest make him greater and richer than his brethren, that he may remove from a shop to a life of state and pleasure; but he will chiefly consider what arts, what methods and what ap
plication can make worldly business most conducive to God's glory, and his neighbor's good; and consequently make a life of trade to be a life of holiness, devotion and undissembled piety. It was this faith that made the primitive christians such eminent instances of religion, and that made the godly fellowship of the saints in all ages, and all the glorious army of confessors and martyrs. And if we will stop and ask ourselves, Why are we not as pious as the primitive christians and saints of old were: our hearts must tell us, that it is because we never yet perhaps earnestly sought after, and consequently were never really made partakers of that precious faith whereby they were constrained to intend to please God in all their actions, as the best and happiest thing in the world. Here then let us judge ourselves sincerely; let us not vainly content ourselves with the common disorders of our lives, the vanity of our expenses, the folly of our diversions, the pride of our habits, the idleness of our lives, and the wasting of our time, fancying that these are only such imperfections as we necessarily fall into, through the unavoidable weakness and frailty of our nature; but let us be assured, that these habitual disorders of our common life are so many demonstrable proofs that we never yet truly accepted of the Lord Jesus and his righteousness by a living faith, and never really intended, as a proof and evidence of such a faith, to please God in all the actions of our life, as the best thing in the world. Though this be a matter we can easily pass over at present, whilst the health of our bodies, the passions of our minds, the noise and hurry and pleasures and business of the world lead us on with “eyes that see not, and ears that hear not,” yet, at death, it will set itself before us in a dreadful magnitude; it will haunt us like a dismal ghost, and our consciences will never let us take our eyes from it, unless they are seared as with a red hot iron, and God shall have given us over to a reprobate mind. Penitens was a busy, notable tradesman, and very prosperous in his dealings; but died in the thirty-fifth year of his age. A little before his death, when the doctors had given him over, some of his neighbors came one evening to see him; at which time he spake thus to them: “I see (says he) my friends, the tender concern you have for me, by the grief that appears in your countenances, and I know the thoughts that you now have of me. You think how melancholy a case it is to see so young a man, and in such flourishing business, delivered up to death. And perhaps, had I visited any of you in my condition, I should have had the same thoughts of you. But now, my friends, my thoughts